Putin's Calculated Charm Offensive
As Russia’s economy reels from sanctions following its annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine, Moscow is doing its best to undermine European Union solidarity against Russian aggression. The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades has claimed that “Cyprus is the most trustworthy voice for Russia within the EU.” But in fact there is competition for this accolade from Greece, several central and eastern European states and even Italy.
Reports that Cyprus would provide port rights for the Russian navy were explained as being limited to nonmilitary humanitarian operations, while its import of arms from Russia was explained as limited to spare parts and maintenance of old equipment. The precise terms of the agreement have not been made public. During his visit to Moscow in February, Anastasiades expressed regret at the EU’s imposition of sanctions, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine. For his efforts, the Cyprus president left Moscow with only a rollover of Russia’s existing $2.5 billion loan to the island, which is gradually emerging from a deep economic crisis.